Monday, December 14, 2009

Review: Fire, Kristen Cashore

Fire is a monster, a girl so beautiful that she can mesmerise and influence those around her. She is the daughter of another monster, Cansrel, who used his abilities to the detriment of others and was the downfall of King Nax. Fire is determined not to follow her father down the same path. But war is coming to the Dells and Fire must decide whether she uses her talents to help King Nash, son of Nax. The commander of the army, Prince Brigan, has very personal reasons for distrusting Cansrel's daughter; her childhood friend Archer wants to keep her locked away from the men and monsters who constantly attack her; and Fire is unable to even answer one simple question: why does she exist?

Fire is set in a different kingdom to Graceling, one where magic manifests in the form of brightly coloured and mesmerising monsters. There are human monsters and animal and bug monsters, all with a taste for each others flesh. War is about to break out in the Dells and King Nash and his twin brother and sister wish Fire to help them gather intelligence by bringing prisoners before her to interrogate. But everywhere Fire goes are the giant raptors trying to kill her and the men of the Dells trying to attack her. Cashore quickly creates a sense of claustrophobia about Fire that negates any desire for the reader to envy her for her beauty; rather, the reader feels empathy and a strong hope for her happiness.

There's a wonderful scene early on in the book when Prince Brigan rides out with a contingent of men. They must get to the tunnels and away to where a village is being raided, but between the palace and the safety of the tunnels hundred of murderous raptors have gathered because of Fire, and they begin to attack the army. Bringing up the rear and in the most vulnerable position is Brigan. Full well knowing that Brigan hates the sight of her and that the raptors will attack her as soon as she appears, Fire rides out to distract them from the army, against everyone's wishes. It's a breathtaking scene and one that hooked me into the story. It promised everything I was hoping for: complexity, adventure, romance and a strong female lead.

Cashore follows through with each of her promises, bar one. There is a huge build up of tension between Fire and Brigan but I was somewhat let down in the end. I don't require romance in every book I read, but if the author goes out of her way to set up a huge rift between two romantically involved characters and it fizzles, I get very upset. Especially (and perhaps this is unfair) after Katsa and Po, the two characters from Graceling who were executed perfectly. (And for the girls like me who tend to fall in love with the male leads and like to argue endlessly about who is more worthy of their love, whom do I love more, Po or Brigan? The answer is Brigan. Though it's a difficult choice. Po is a darling. And probably better in the long-term. But who cares about the long-term when you have a crush!)

Silliness aside, it's the characters and the wonderful complexity of the story that make Cashore's books a delight to read. Fire would have gotten an all out rave review from me if it wasn't for the fizzle, but the romance was just one aspect of the story. The rest was amazing. Cashore will undoubtedly revive the fantasy romance genre which has been flagging of late, which I am very pleased about as that's what I love to read. And that's also what I write.

Cover notes: The UK/Australian one wipes the floor with the US one. I gasped when I opened the box, I really did.


  1. god it is a beautiful cover.
    And this book sounds awesome - its weird how you read other people's reviews of it and you dont come close to having an idea of what its about and then someone relates it just right for your brain to go "what an awesome story!"

    The only thing that may make me hesitate in picking up this book is the romantic flop you talked about. I'm same as you, I dont absolutely require it but if its being set up so strongly its gotta come through with the goods.

    And I have crushes on the guys all the time.

  2. I haven't read any fantasy for awhile after the the great fantasy burn-out of 08, but I'm keen to jump back in with a new book. Perhaps this might be the one.

    I so nearly bought this book on the weekend just on the cover alone.

    Should I confess? Okay, I've never read any of her books. Sigh.

  3. I feel like the last person on earth never to read GRACELING or FIRE.

  4. Aimee--I want to discuss exactly why the romance flopped for me but it would be too much of a spoiler. Other people might think otherwise.

    Jade--I know you bought Liar instead. I think you'll like it, but also really like Fire too.

    Dannie--not the last person yet but you might be soon!!

  5. I loved Fire and Graceling. :) I wish I could've gotten the one with this cover. :(

  6. I can't read your review on this because I plan to read and review it myself and if I read yours, I'll be INFLUENCED!! LOL. :) Anyway, I did peek at your final comment.

    I am so sad. You guys do have a better cover. I was actually trying to hunt down your version of the cover and was gravely disappointed to see the non-descript one we have here in the States.



  7. Oh, oh! I can't wait to read this one. Well, apparently I can...because I've had it sitting in my pile for WEEKS now. I just had so many library books out that it felt a bit like doom...

    But now I have some free time, and I'm cursing the fact that I didn't bring it with me on this trip...

    Great review, by the way. My reaction = exact same as Aimee's. We may be a little triumvirate of fantasy romance lovers (well, obviously not LITERALLY, but in our book tastes)...

  8. That cover is stunning. Book covers are so important, aren't they? It's scary to think a cover could make or break your book sales, and as an author that you don't really have any say as to what it will be.

  9. Elle--It terrifies me a lot! Especially not having a say.

  10. Fabulous review! I feel incredibly stupid now, because this has been in my TBR for the longest time and I keep having my head turned by new arrivals. I'm scheduling one of my upcoming days off to read this right now.

    Re: the cover, I do think the UK/Australian one is amazing, but I don't really like the fact that it's only in the fantasy section here in the UK, and not the YA section. I think they missed a trick there, not running two covers to potentially interest both markets.

  11. That's a good point, Lauren. I haven't seen in on the YA shelves here either. I think it must be in the adult section, which is odd.